Albert Einstein Threatens to Resign from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem
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“If Magnes cannot be eliminated in the very near future, I shall also follow through with my resignation. I am doing this because I am convinced that at this point, no real harm would result by compromising the University in the eyes of the Jewish public.” ALBERT EINSTEIN.
Typed Letter Signed, to [Leo] Kohn of [Frankfurt]. Berlin, September 20, 1927. 1 p., 8.5 x 11 in., in German.
Dear Mr. Kohn,
I gave Mr. Warburg my opinion in all candor, but subsequently never heard from him. For this reason, I think it improper to write him again. If the agreement with Hadassah will be accepted, or if the Magnes proposals will be approved either in total or parts thereof, I shall not only resign from the Board, as well as from the Academic Council, but also publicize in the Jewish press in all frankness the reason for my resignation. If Magnes cannot be eliminated in the very near future, I shall also follow through with my resignation. I am doing this because I am convinced that at this point, no real harm would result by compromising the University in the eyes of the Jewish public. Perhaps it will serve the interest of the entire matter, if you could make sure everybody concerned is made aware of my decision.
Lieber Herr Kohn!
Ich habe Herrn Warburg offen meine Meinung gesagt und weiter nichts von ihm gehört. Deshalb halte ich es nicht für richtig noch einmal an ihn zu schreiben. Wenn das Abkommen mit der Hadassah acceptiert wird, oder Magnes Vorschläge ganz oder zum Teil angenommenwerden, werde ich aus dem Kuratorium und aus dem akademischen Rat austreten und in der jüdischen Presse rückhaltlos diesen Schritt begründen. Dasselbe werde ich auch tun, wenn es nicht in allernächster Zeit gelingt, Magnes abzusägen. Ich tue dies in der Ueberzeungung, dass es nachgerade keinen wirklichen Schaden mehr bedeutet, wenn die Universität in den Augen der jüdischen Oeffentlichkeit vollkommen kompromittiert wird. Vielleicht ist es
im Interesse der Sache, wenn Sie im Interesse dafür sorgen, dass dieser Entschluss allen Beteiligten bekannt wird.
Es grüsst Sie freundlich
Felix M. Warburg (1871-1937) was an American philanthropist whose gift of $500,000 allowed the Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem to open in December 1924, three months before the inauguration of the Hebrew University, of which it became part. He insisted that American Rabbi Judah L. Magnes (1877-1948) head the university and Chaim Weizmann, President of the World Zionist Organization, agreed. Hebrew University co-founder Einstein disagreed, citing Magnes’ lack of academic experience and the way he ran the university, and he would fulfill his threat to resign in a letter to Chaim Weizmann on June 20, 1928, writing, “As things stand I feel it impossible to be responsible any longer for matters concerning the university. Thus I ask you to strike me from the Board of Governors and the Academic Council and to inform the members of both accordingly.” Backing down from our letter’s threat to “publicize in the Jewish press” the reasons for his resignation, Einstein added, “The public will certainly not be informed of this step by me.”
Einstein would explain his feelings toward Warburg and Magnes further: “The bad thing about the business was that the good Felix Warburg, thanks to his financial authority ensured that the incapable Magnes was made director of the Institute, a failed American rabbi, who, through his dilettantish enterprises had become uncomfortable to his family in America, who very much hoped to dispatch him honorably to some exotic place. This ambitious and weak person surrounded himself with other morally inferior men, who did not allow any decent person to succeed there ... These people managed to poison the atmosphere there totally and to keep the level of the institution low.” (Fölsing)
Two file holes in right margin not affecting any text; several short tears at edges; overall near excellent condition.
Fölsing, Albrecht. Albert Einstein: A Biography, (trans. Eald Osers), Penguin, 1998, 494-495.